Last week, we went to meet with Mel, the SHEQ Manager over at Longworth, one of the UK’s leading building envelope contractors, who offer complete turnkey solutions of design, installation and project management, throughout the UK. Mel has been in this position for the last 8 months, and has made an incredible impact already in both occupational health and safety change but also mental health and well being.
Longworth are an SME with national coverage, employing roughly 60 employees – so we wanted to find out how Mel convinced Longworth to prioritise wellbeing, as well as how she got so many employees on board so quickly.
Laura - Afternoon Mel! Can you tell us a little bit about what’s going on at Longworth at the minute?
Mel - “We have had a massive push over the last 6 months on mental health programmes, and we have had (out of 60 employees) 10 mental health champions volunteer/step forward, which I think is a huge success! We have done a lot of work locally with St Helens Council who have sent across a Health and Wellbeing Kiosk over – this has been sat in our reception and been utilised by most of the staff and a lot of out visitors, which is a good way to raise awareness of any initial issues and concerns. From this we will receive an overview report which will allow us to plan and act accordingly to improve wellbeing even more.
We are also involved in the “Time to Change” campaign. This involved Paul Smith, our MD signing a pledge and we did this in a public ceremony where all staff were invited to attend. Paul talked to us all about the company’s commitments and what to look out for, and I think this really showed everyone how seriously we are taking this subject, and encouraged people to step forward and talk about mental health and wellbeing. We also have a number of people signed up for the Level 2 Mental Health Awareness course, this is a funded course of 12 weeks done by distance learning. Hopefully if this goes well and is well received we can sign more people up in the future.
"The most important thing is that we take action"
We had our mental health champions meet once a month on site, although we have reduced this now to once a quarter, and I think the most important thing here is that we take action from these meetings. The fact that we have immediately actioned and implemented things based on suggestions shows again our commitment and is really encouraging people to come forward and get involved – they know that they are going to be listened to, and that this isn’t just lip service.”
"This isn't just lip service"
Laura - Sounds great! It’s really nice to see a company prioritising well being and mental health. Seeing as you are quite new to the role, how did you convince senior management that this was a priority? We find a lot of companies want to first focus on the basic of safety, and well being is more of an afterthought.
Mel – “We find everyone kind of knows the basic here when it comes to PPE, fall protection etc. Obviously we are still working on ways to ensure that this stuff is always carried out, and carried out well, and I have started a programme where I will be going out and actually working with my colleagues on site over the next few months, to really understand them and their pressures. I’ve made it clear that this isn’t to test them, pull them up on things or even change the way that they work (unless they are in danger obviously) but just to help me develop longer term plans and to make sure everyone gets home safe and healthy. With that in mind, I think well being and mental health IS a priority and actually underpins a lot of the occupational health and safety risks. When we focus on mental health and well being, our colleagues can really see that we, as a company, actually care about them, and enables trust when it comes to their physical well being too. It all ties together.”
"Mental health is a priority"
Laura – What’s planned for the future?
Mel – “Continuing to listen is so important. I want to make sure that the committee meetings for safety and mental health continue, and that the minutes of those meetings continue to be made public so that trust can continue to grow. I also am developing a 2 year plan to work together with our supply chain – something I think is really important – we will have supply chain events where we sit down and discuss, and this can really help not just Longworth, but the industry as a whole to identify what we do well, what we can do better, and what we need as a cohesive industry.
I am also heavily involved in a number of groups, such as the North West Safety Construction group, and IOSH Manchester Branch, and I think it is massively important to ensure that these groups continue to grow and address new and interesting issues – things outside day to day legislation (although of course that still is important).
We are also using well being surveys at the minute as well as the HSE tool on stress, and this is something we want to make sure we are continuing to push and utilise properly across the company.”
Laura – “Mel, it’s been fantastic speaking to you, and thanks for telling us about your experiences at Longworth. Well done on all the work you have done so far!"
For more information on Longworth you can visit: https://www.longworth-uk.com/
For information on IOSH Manchester please follow: https://www.iosh.co.uk/Membership/Our-membership-network/Our-Branches/Manchester-and-North-West-Districts-Branch.aspx
Or for information on the North West Construction safety Group visit: https://www.nwcsg.org.uk/